When I was 16, well into my senior year of high school, I went to see my guidance counselor – Floyd Hillman. Mr. Hillman told me (the words are etched in my brain) “I think I can get you a job as an assistant plumber.” I sat. And wanted to cry. I didn’t want to be an assistant plumber. And I left. Sad about my impending future. But a few of my friends were talking about “college.” College sounded pretty good.
My father never finished high school and my mother never went to college. So we never talked much about college. I would finish high school and then go to work. Even so, I went home and mentioned “college” to my father. “College?” he said. “The only guy I know who went to college was Bill Swanson.” He looked at me. “You wanna go to college??” I nodded — having little clue as to what that meant. . . .
We went to see Mr. Swanson. He said “I went to Augustana College. Maybe I could get you an interview.” My dad said “you want that?” and I nodded. . . . not entirely sure what that meant. My parents and I drove out to Rock Island, Illinois — home of Augustana College — and I had an interview with Mr. Hemming, the Director of Admissions. It was April or May — around the time of high school graduation. Mr. Hemming said that the class was full. And my grades were not great. But he liked that I was an Eagle Scout so he would find a spot for me. He said I could be admitted on academic probation. But if I didn’t have a “C” average first semester, I was out. So I signed on. A few months later, I was in college. My first semester – of 6 courses, I had 5 “C’s” and one “B” (in swimming). I was in. The second youngest freshman in my class (I’d skipped 2d grade).
My 45th reunion was this weekend at Augustana. I went. First time in 35 years. I owe Stanley Erickson for a big lesson and Dean Ribbick for things that go unsaid. And I owe Augustana College for taking a flyer on a just turned 17 year old kid with mediocre grades. I was given a chance. It was great to be back. See old friends. My fraternity brothers. And visit. . . my college.